Major Google Search Ranking Updates: A Brief Overview

Google was first launched in 1998, and ever since the company has been continuously refining its search algorithm to offer a better user experience. The company has released several algorithms to curb low-quality and Spam link building tactics. Different Google updates caused the webmasters to learn better ways of optimizing their web pages.  Today, SEOs and content marketers have evolved a great deal in response to the ever-changing Google algorithms. Given below is an overview of the different Google Updates and their impact on the Search Engine Rankings:




Panda Update

The Panda update was first released in February 2011 and has received several updates ever since. The update tracks sites with low-quality or in other words “thin” content, pushing them down the search rankings. Website with too many ads and duplicate content experienced Panda penalties. Recently, Google has baked Panda update into its core ranking algorithm, causing a massive stir in the SEO industry.

What to Do?

–    Write Informative Content

–    Make Your Website Content Rich

–    Avoid Using Thin or Rewriting Practices



Penguin update followed a year after the Panda update in April 2012. Penguin was released to put an end to the spammy backlinking procedures. Backlinks are counted as a vote for recognition in Google’s search ranking dictionary.

Many people tricked Google’s search engine to acquire useless and spammy links just to get a push in the search engine results before the penguin update. Although a lot of webmasters stopped building links altogether after the Penguin update, Backlinks still contribute to site’s rankings in the search engines. However, the quality and relevancy matters today instead of quantity.

What to Do?

–    Acquire Links from Relevant Sites

–    Engage in Social Media Campaign to Attract Natural Links

–    Outreach to Authority Sites to Publish Content

The Panda and Penguin are often mentioned together as quality content helps to acquire quality backlinks.



The hummingbird update arrived in the summer of 2013. It was designed to improve Google’s semantic search features, to understand and delver results according to the users problems typed in the form of conversational queries. The update mainly understood the context and intent of the searcher’s query.

Hummingbird like Panda shifted the horizon of content marketing slightly. Emphasizing on the searcher’s intent, Google was matching relevancy of a topic instead of connecting just keywords in the content.

The keywords are still important for connecting with the search engine; the way they need to be used was adjusted slightly. The hummingbird keyword made long-tail keywords more important mainly emphasizing on intent. Content developers had to write content keeping user’s intent to address their issues.

What to Do?

–    Incorporate long tail keywords naturally

–    Keep searcher’s intent in mind while writing about a topic



Mobilegeddon, major mobile update by Google was released in April last year to focus on mobile searches, due to the ever increasing searches on the mobile platforms. Google also warned the webmasters to go all responsive before the update to improve its search ranking methods addressing to the problems of mobile users. This caused SEOs & content marketers to focus on design metrics like responsive design, easy navigation, user experience, easy forms etc.

What to Do?

–    Mobile Page or Responsive Design

–    Simple Call to Action

–    Easy Navigation

–    User Experience

–    Optimization Locally

Quality Update

Quality Update

Quality Update went live soon after the mobile update and was released quietly. The update focused on the user experience. Sites with the best user experience were rewarded whereas sites running several ads or a typical form of user-generated content like HubPages were penalized.

However, not all the user-generated content sites were pushed down, as Quora, another popular question & answer site was rewarded. This was mainly due to strict measures taken by the site for content approval.

What to Do?

-Like Panda, Avoid thin content or information not directed to solve user problems

– Fix Error Pages with 404s, 501 etc

RankBrain Update

RankBrain Update

RankBrain was a unique change to the algorithm and was announced in the fall of 2015. The Update helps Google to understand user intent connecting it with content, through machine learning and Artificial intelligence techniques. Google now responds to hundreds of millions of unique queries to predict and learn user behaviors every day.

What to Do?

–    Creating Content based on User Intent

–    Updating Schema Markup

In short, all these updates want the SEOs and content developers to focus on user intent, informative content, earning links, optimizing a site for users and not to forget provide a great user experience. As long as you fulfill all these requirements, you will stay safe from getting hit by any of these updates.

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